Garry Monk has defended Leeds United’s decision to sell Lewis Cook to Bournemouth, saying he and the club did “all we could” to keep the midfielder at Elland Road and insisting his plans for the new season would not be disrupted by Cook’s exit.
The 19-year-old and reigning Football League player of the year quit United’s training camp in Ireland last Friday to complete a multi million-pound move to Dean Court, moving on from Leeds after two years as a first-team player.
Monk, who took charge as United head coach at the start of last month, had singled out Cook as a major part of his plans for next season and persuaded the youngster to turn down a call-up to the England Under-19 squad for this summer’s European Championship in Germany in order to have a full pre-season with Leeds.
Cook, however, trained for just two weeks before Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe secured him in a transfer worth around £10m. Leeds are believed to have earned an up-front fee of £6m for a player who was out of contract next summer.
His departure came on the back of six new arrivals at Elland Road, including the seven-figure signing of Oxford United forward Kemar Roofe, and Monk is optimistic that more players will come into the club before the Championship term starts away at Queens Park Rangers on August 7.
“It’s a situation in football which is very common,” Monk told LUTV. “It happens every single year at every single club.
“Of course, myself and the club wanted Lewis to stay. I know the club made huge efforts to keep him here contract-wise - myself as well on the football side.
“But I think you have to accept that when a player really wants to go, when he and his agent want to take it that way and the club feel they’ve done all they can to keep him and it’s still not progressing, if a bid comes in that the club find acceptable then nine times out of 10 they’re going to accept it.
“That’s nothing new, it’s nothing strange. It happens at every club in every transfer window. Myself and the club did all we could to keep him. But when the player wanted to go and it (the offer) met the requirements of the club, it happens.”
Cook’s wage is understood to have risen from around £6,000 at Elland Road to more than £30,000 a week at Bournemouth. The Premier League club had been monitoring him for several months and failed with previous bids for him in January.
United owner Massimo Cellino, who sanctioned the deal last week, has been vocal recently in his criticism of left-back Charlie Taylor, claiming the defender is refusing to engage in contract talks, but Monk insisted that Cook’s exit had been amicable.
“I know he left here on good terms with everyone in the club,” Monk said. “This is where you look now to strengthen the squad, which we are doing continuously, to add that quality.
“I think you’ve seen from the signings so far that we’ve added quality to what’s already here and as we stay to the plan there’s a few more who need to come in as well.
“It’s very hard for a club outside the Premier League to keep a player from wanting to go to a higher league. It’s very difficult taking that ambition away from the player. At times it does hurt but it happens. We move on, we react very quickly and it’s not going to affect us. We’re working on getting the squad right for the start of the season.”